The Shutdown Is Boosting Barack Obama's Poll Numbers, and Republicans Don't Care

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 9 2013 8:47 AM

The Shutdown Is Boosting Barack Obama's Poll Numbers, and Republicans Don't Care

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California Rep. Tom McClintock isn't worried. Then again, would you be, with Arnold Schwarzenegger by your side?

Photo by John Decker-Pool/Getty Images

Yesterday, after he left the House GOP conference meeting on the party's next shutdown moves, California Rep. Tom McClintock kept insisting that the shutdown was weakening Barack Obama's position. I asked him what the basis for that was—surely Obama wasn't soaring back to 2009 levels of popularity, but wasn't Congress hitting rock bottom pretty quickly?

"Actually," said McClintock, "the polling that I've seen is showing a rising body of opinion that rejects the no-compromise, no-negotiation stance of Harry Reid and Barack Obama."

He didn't mention which polling that was, and I didn't press, but if you read into the crosstabs of polls ... actually, you still don't come up with a scenario in which the president's stock is falling faster than Republicans'. In the RealClearPolitics average, Barack Obama's approval has actually stabilized or edged up since the nadir of September, and the backlash to the Syria imbroglio. The Fox News poll has him bouncing from -14 to -4; the Gallup and Rasmussen trackers have him basically even; YouGov has him bouncing from -12 to even. Even the Reuters/Ipsos poll that puts Obama at -10 represents a move up from -16.

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The average gives Obama a 45 percent approval rating, and that's even baking in the newsy AP/GFK poll that puts him at 37 percent. And the AP/GFK is 1) conducted online and 2) making the most news for giving Congress a 5 percent approval rating. The average gives Congress an 11 percent approval rating. Since the start of the shutdown, Congress is down from -57 to -74 in Gallup, from -58 to -68 in Fox, -58 to -77 in CNN, and stable at -66 in YouGov.

I'd expect conservatives to focus on the AP/GFK poll, as the news always gravitates to the polls with the most dramatic results. And on Twitter I've already seen conservatives asking the biased media (hello!) to imagine if George W. Bush posted these numbers. Well, OK: At this point in his second term, Bush's approval fell to 39 percent in Gallup, 7 points lower than Obama's current rating. Throughout the rest of that term, he never cracked 44 percent again.

But as McClintock's answer showed, Republicans are not going to put these numbers through rigorous tests. They believe that the public is moving toward blaming Obama, not them, for the shutdown.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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